Roxy Music were such a trailblazing force that they now reside as the quintessential ‘Guess the Year Quiz’ trip-up merchants. You hear ‘Virginia Plain’ and instinctively the sound, production and avant-garde performance takes years off its actual age. With the help of Brian Eno in this department, Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music helped to smash the shackles beginning to form on turgid rock ’n’ roll at just the right time.
However, the reason the music sustained, was because it wasn’t just about flying blindly into the emerging world of futuristic synth sounds, everything was dripping with the celebration of arts timeless vitality. Thus, Roxy Music drew as much from the past as he did from the future. Helming from an art school background, Ferry once said: “I like that music is more abstract [than most art].” With this keen eye for creativity and where it stands in society, it is no surprise that Ferry takes inspiration from an eclectic pool and unleashes it upon the abstract canvas of music.
Hailing from Newcastle, England, Ferry went from a fairly normal childhood to being the peak of the art-music scene, helping to influence an entire generation, not just musically but with his smartly sartorial style too. In fact, the author Peter York even went as far as to say that was an “art object that should hang in the Tate.”
A large part of this sharp suited focus came from one hero: Humphrey Bogart. Not only did he inspire his snappy dress, but as the star also infiltrated his back catalogue. Considering ‘2HB’ features the iconic line “Here’s looking at you, kid,” there are no prizes for guessing that the ‘HB’ in question, from whence he drew his inspiration, is not a pencil but Casablanca star Humphrey Bogart.
More than just an ode from Bryan Ferry dedicated to the late actor and his work on the iconic Casablanca, the musicology is equally influenced by the film. The song features an Andy Mackay sax solo—based on the melody of ‘As Time Goes By’ a tune performed by Dooley ‘play it again Sam’ Wilson on that old piano in the corner. This coupling of new and old soared on the single from 1972, adding depth to the otherwise groundbreaking style.
What’s more, the juxtaposing of Bogart with the boom of new wave was one that seemed to sing of Andy Warhol’s pop art and place the work within the developing cultural landscape of the era. In short, Ferry may well have borrowed a lot from Bogart, but it was always spun out with his own very singular twist. In fact, Ferry even revised the film with a jazz gaze in his stripped-back solo track ‘As Time Goes By’.